Hayes v. Aquia Marina Case Brief

Summary of Hayes v. Aquia Marina, S. Ct. VA [1992]

Relevant Facts: Pl, Hayes, owner of servient estate. Df, Marina, owner of dominant estate. The predecessors in title entered into a written agreement for “the establishment of a certain roadway or right of way." The “newly established private roadway," was “approx 1,120 ft in length and 15 ft wide." The agreement provided that the parties shall have an easement of right of way over th entire length. The record indicates that the private roadway is constructed of dirt and gravel. Df property is 2.48 acres and the easement is the sole access. The Df’s marina was operated commercially since 1959. The marina consists of 84 boat slips, and public boat launch, and a gas dock. The proposal would increase the size to 280 boat slips. Testimony was taken that there has never been a traffic problem, and emergency services never had a problem accessing the property.

Legal Issue(s): Whether an easement across the servient estates will be overburdened by the proposed expanded use of the dominant estate?

Court’s Holding: No, The agreement creating the easement contains no terms of limitation on use.

Procedure: Tr ct commissioner ruled in favor of Df. Pl appealed. Affirmed.

Law or Rule(s): An easement created by a general grant or reservation, without words limiting it to any particular use of the dominant estate, is not affected by any reasonable change in the use of the dominant estate. However, no use may be made which is different from that established at the time of its creation and which imposes an additional burden upon the servient estate.

Court Rationale: When the agreement is read as a whole the phrase “private roadway," was used to distinguish that portion of the easement that would not become a part of the state highway system. The phrase is descriptive, not restrictive. The agreement contains no terms of limitation on the easement’s use. The proposed expansion will not “in and of itself," impose any “additional burden" upon the easement, even though the “degree of burden" may be increased. The owner of a dominant estate w/ a duty to maintain an easement, may make reasonable improvement to an easement so long as the improvement does not unreasonably increase the burden upon the servient estate. The trial ct found that the proposed paving is reasonable.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The phrase “ private roadway," in the easement agreement evidences an intent to limit the use, and the proposed expansion will impose additional burdens.

Defendant’s Argument: Df has the obligation to maintain the roadway, and therefor the right to improve the easement so long as Df does not increase the burden upon the servient estate.



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